High Stakes

Patient Experience: Dealing with the Flavor of the Month

Is your team getting weary of all the change you’re throwing at them?

Every new initiative, every new tactic — all put in place for good reasons — begins to feel like just another flavor of the month from management. It can be overwhelming.

How do you square that natural exhaustion with the real need to turn around some key performance measures? How do you engage your team around change? And, more important, how do you sustain that change when the next month something new gets rolled out and grabs the attention?

One answer: Validate that change is happening, and show employees that what they’re doing works.

When trying to improve patient experience scores, it’s important to connect those scores with specific tactics and initiatives that your team has implemented to move the needle.

In other words, if you’ve coached your teams on improving quietness at night, let them know that you are going to track that metric in the HCAHPS scores to see if there is any improvement as result of the training. If it goes up, let them know. If it stays the same, let them know that, too. And ask, was the training effective? Are we making the changes that we need to make to improve quietness at night?

Measuring does not have to be punitive, but it does give employees a baseline to understand why they are making changes and that you’re not wasting their time. You’re looking for a direct result and checking to see whether changes are being fully adopted.

Metrics can be powerful evidence for team members.

For example, in one hospital, pain levels showed up in the HCAHPS as a big dis-satisfier. Were nurses coming around hourly to check on patients and their pain? The hospital began to have nurse leaders go into each room every day to validate that the patient was receiving hourly rounding from the nurses.

The nurse leader visits had a huge impact on satisfaction with pain management. Those who received a visit from the nurse leader were 20 percent more satisfied with pain levels than those who didn’t get the visit. What did that mean? When the lead nurse was regularly checking to make sure hourly rounding was occurring, patients were getting better care.

In another example, a hospital was able to improve patient understanding of their discharge information. A training program on communicating discharge information to patients was developed, and a new process put everything into one folder clearly labeled “Discharge Information” for the patient. Scores shot up and remained high as the people on the front line followed the new procedures. Those numbers were shared.

Most employees in hospitals are willing to do new things, but they have to understand the why behind it, and the what. They think, “This is why I’m doing things differently — it changes the patient experience, and I can see that through the survey scores of patients that came through this department. And this what I have to do differently”.

For hospitals, the bottom line is this: The metrics on patient experience are coming from the federal government whether you want them to or not. It’s how you promote them with your employees and tie them back to your tactics that will make a difference.


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